wolfinthewood: Wolf's head in relief from romanesque tympanum at Kilpeck, Herefordshire (Default)
[personal profile] wolfinthewood

Happy New Year!

Yesterday the writings and visual art works of creators who died in the course of 1944 came out of copyright in Britain and the other EC countries. (This does not apply to any of their works that were first published posthumously, nor to translations that were published more recently, or were made by translators who are still alive, or who died less than 70 years ago.)

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (b. 1863) was King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. He was a prolific author of fiction, poetry and literary criticism; he also compiled a number of anthologies. His Oxford Book of English Verse and Oxford Book of Ballads were both in the library of my grammar school in the sixties, and I devoured them like I devoured every other volume of poetry I laid hands on. From a scholarly point of view his Oxford Book of Ballads is deplorable; he did not hesitate to 'improve' texts, to merge different versions of the same ballad, and even to bowdlerize them. But I owe him a debt, nonetheless, for making such a substantial selection of ballads available and accessible. I read the book from end to end, over and over again.


Alfred William Pollard (b. 1859) was a bibliographer and editor. With G. R. Redgrave, he edited what until quite recently was an indispensable finding aid for early modern scholars: A short title catalogue of books printed in England, Scotland & Ireland and of English books printed abroad, 1475-1640. Now, of course, it is superseded by the online English Short Title Catalogue, but it was the work of Pollard and Redgrave that laid the foundations. Much of Pollard's work, though valuable, is dry as dust. But I am rather fond of Early Illustrated Books: A History of the Decoration and Illustration of Books in the 15th and 16th Centuries (1893; 2nd edn, revised, 1917), of which I own an old ex-library copy.

Sir William Searle Holdsworth (b. 1871), an academic lawyer, wrote a magisterial History of English Law in multiple volumes. The first volume came out in 1903; the last to be published in his lifetime appeared in 1938. Several volumes were published posthumously, from his notes. I've dipped into the History occasionally for research purposes. The Dictionary of National Biography suggests that the work 'may never be wholly superseded': quite an accolade.

Edward Johnston (b. 1872) published his book Writing and Illuminating and Lettering in 1906. An indispensable text-book for calligraphers, it has been in print continuously ever since. He also designed the distinctive sans-serif alphabet used on the London Underground.

Greville MacDonald (b. 1856) was the son of George MacDonald; he wrote a massive biography of his parents, George MacDonald and his Wife (1924), and introductions to reprint editions of some of his father's works of fiction. He also wrote some original romances and literary fairy tales, but I have never read any of those.

The poet, illustrator and art historian Thomas Sturge Moore (b. 1870) is chiefly remembered, as far as I am aware, as a friend of W. B. Yeats. He wrote a number of verse dramas and many poems. I tried to read some of his poetry yesterday and was very bored. His book on Albrecht Dürer was more interesting.

Poems by Robert Nichols (b. 1893) turn up regularly in anthologies of First World War poetry. He continued to publish poetry after the war, but his later poems don't get much attention.

The poet Olive Custance (b. 1874) is reputed to have been bisexual, and to have had an affair with Natalie Barney. She was married to Lord Alfred Douglas, the lover of Oscar Wilde. I read all of her poems when looking for work to include in my anthology of lesbian poetry, Love Shook My Senses. I didn't find anything I thought worth including.

German author Christa Winsloe (b. 1888), a lesbian, wrote the play on which the film Mädchen in Uniform (1931) was founded. She also wrote a novel on the same theme, Das Mädchen Manuela; written some years earlier, it was not published until 1933, after the success of the film. As the Nazi regime tightened its grip, Winsloe's work was banned in Germany, though she remained free. When the war broke out, she was in France, advising on another film; she decided to stay there. She was shot, with her French lover, by a gang of French criminals in a forest near Cluny. An English translation of Das Mädchen Manuela was published in 1934 as The Child Manuela (there was a Virago reprint in 1994). The translator was Willa Muir (1890–1970), under her pseudonym Agnes Neill Scott. A short biographical essay on Winsloe by the German scholar Claudia Schoppmann, written in 2005, states that much of her work remains unpublished.

The Welsh poet and short-story writer Alun Lewis (b. 1915) died in an accident in Burma while serving with the Royal Engineers. In 1942 he had published a volume of poems, Raiders' dawn and a collection of short stories, The Last Inspection. A second volume of poems, Ha! Ha! among the Trumpets. Poems in Transit appeared after his death, in 1945, and six uncollected stories, together with some of his letters, were published in In a Green Tree (1948). A few of his poems have been widely anthologised. The short stories are not so well known. Yesterday, for the first time, I read The Last Inspection. (I have had a battered old copy on my shelves for years – I see I paid 40p for it). Most of the stories are shrewdly-observed vignettes of army life in Britain in the early years of the war.

Keith Douglas (b. 1920) was killed in Normandy three days after D-Day. He had already had poems published in Eight Oxford Poets (1942) and Selected Poems (1943; with Norman Nicholson and J. C. Hall). A prose memoir, Alamein to Zem Zem was published in 1946. His Collected Poems did not appear till 1951. His reputation has grown slowly over succeeding decades.

Another casualty of the war was the Jewish historian Marc Bloch, a hero of the French Resistance, who was executed by the Nazis. An unfinished manuscript, Apologie pour l’histoire; ou, métier d’historien was published in 1949. It was translated into English as The Historian's Craft in 1953. I have two copies of it; a secondhand copy of the original 1953 edition, with my pencilled notes, and a more recent edition with an introduction by Peter Burke. The English translation will be in copyright for a long time; the translator, Peter Putnam, died in 1998. Bloch also wrote books on French rural history, on feudalism, and on the myth of the King's Evil (scrofula, a disease believed in England and France to be cured by the touch of the reigning monarch).

Alfred Basil Lubbock (b. 1876) was a prolific author of books and articles on ships and sailing, beginning with a best-selling memoir of his voyage as an apprentice on the four-masted sailing ship Royalshire, Round the Horn Before the Mast (1902). He also edited the autobiography of a seventeenth-century merchant sailor, Edward Barlow.

Here's a sample from Round the Horn Before the Mast:

Thursday, 5th October
Two albatrosses have made their appearance. How magnificent they look as they hover in our wake, swooping gracefully about without a single quiver of their huge double-jointed wings. I have watched them for hours at a time without seeing one of them make a flap of his wings. They don't fly, they sail; and when they want to go against the wind, "they brace sharp up", and in a wonderful manner seem able to sail right into the wind's eye. It is a bad sign to see them so far north, and means very bad weather to the southward.

Monday, 9th October
Circling and wheeling astern are sea-birds of all kinds, Cape hens, mollymawks, Cape blackbirds, Cape pigeons, and our two friends the great wandering albatrosses.

Friday, 27th October
Old Slush is very keen to catch an albatross, and has got a hook over, but we are going too fast through the water.

Saturday, 28th October
In the second dog watch Loring and the cook caught an albatross. It measured 10 feet across the wings, and had a splendid grey-white plumage.

We skinned him at once; Scar got the breast plumage, the cook the wing bones for pipe-stems, the nipper and Mac taking the feet for tobacco-pouches. Scar also got his head and beak, which is a tremendous affair, and so I think he got the best of the spoils.

Monday, 30th October
We had a great treat for breakfast this morning: we cut up the albatross, and made the cook broil it for us. The meat of the great bird was as dark as mutton, with a strong fishy flavour. Don could not touch it, but I thought it was awfully good.

Monday, 6th November
The day is superb, but, alas! the wind is still in the wrong quarter.

Scar, that prophet of evil, puts all this head wind down to our killing the albatross, and hints gloomily at an awful fate awaiting us:–

"And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah, wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow! "

It is a sailor's superstition, that within the breast of each albatross dwells the soul of a dead mariner.

Thursday, 9th November
It is fairly sickening, this head wind, and we are hardly making any northing at all.

Scar's followers are growing in numbers. Old Foghorn says he never knew a head wind to fail coming on after killing an albatross.

Others say that Johnsen is a Jonah, and ought to be chucked overboard.

A. Basil Lubbock (1876–1944)

from Round the Horn Before the Mast (1902)

Lubbock's voyage was made in 1899.